Reflection & Patterns

How to Train Your Brain Like you Would Teach a Child

A few years ago I worked for Children’s Services as a Family Support Worker. I taught boundary-setting skills, educated parents and schools on brain development, and essentially used all the brain-training hacks I’d learned in my degrees.

I didn’t have children at the time, but I was paid to support parents with… parenting.

Let’s say I met quite a bit of resistance, but I did my research and I knew my ‘stuff.’ My colleagues, with children of their own, or even just looking old enough to have children, were not questioned as I was. These days, I would let the results speak for themselves, but I’m a bit of a scholar. So instead, I did the research, and I quoted it at them.

But the more experience I have of living as a human being in this world, the more connections I see between the “how to parent” advice, and the neurobiology of a human thriving at *any age*… So many of those “hack your goals” or “habits of highly successful people” follows the same patterns of the behaviour I was trained to encourage as a support worker.

So. Let’s think about how this can be applied to brain-training in your life.

Applying the Lessons

For example, a key focus in parenting classes for toddlers and school-aged children is that of structure and routines: of giving the child some sense of stability and predictability.

No humans like uncertainty, and the way we slowly forget to give ourselves at least some semblance of structure always fascinates me.

Think about your general daily routines.

brain-training-teaching-child

Do you have a ‘bedtime’ aim? Do you have meals around the same time? How about a set of tasks you do the same each morning to get ready for the day?

Yet, programming our bodies with these kinds of primers can be so helpful in feeling well, rested and balanced across our days.

Of course, we all have different levels of structure that works for us. Some people are night owls while others are morning larks, so it pays to reflect on which routines will best support you in your daily life.

Similarly, when you make goals, do you give yourself reminders, reward the positive actions, and review your progress regularly, like you would with a child’s sticker chart? Do you renew your commitment often? Because that seems to be one of the most common themes in the science of success.

Physical Space

Everything from setting daily routines to how we organise our physical space to can be applied to adults, and although the aspects often have different names, the concepts are often shared by highly successful people.

I’d like you to think about a pre-school classroom. If you’ve not seen one lately, any school setting from a movie should do the trick. 

What makes it easy for the children and teacher to navigate the space?

Often, there might be set “zones” for items. The dressing-up clothes are in a carpeted area in the corner, beside… you guessed it… the dressing up clothes.

In order to make things simple for a child, there are set rules and structure to their day:

  • Time for Dressing Up
  • Area to Dress-up In
  • Dressing up items kept in/near to that area
  • Defined end-point of Dressing up time
  • Expectation and clear space to put clothes away

Computer Simulations

I’m old enough to remember the original Sims video game, where you would ‘play god’ for some unsuspecting humans, choosing how they spend their days and trying to keep them healthy and happy (at least, most of the time).

One of the key understandings to make that game less stressful, if trying to keep everyone in a positive place, was the idea of flow in the house, which benefited the character’s energy levels.

In the kitchen, for example, I would follow the following order:
Fridge, workspace, cooker, workspace, workspace, sink, with the bin close-by.

Why does this matter?

Because if the simulated characters couldn’t do the next “task in their to-do list” it expended extra energy, and they became grumpy.

The typical ‘cooking’ act following the same steps:

1. Remove item from fridge

2. Chop items on work surface

3. Boil items in pan

4. Serve on plates (workspace 2)

5. Stand to eat/eat at table, then return to put dirty dishes beside sink (work space 3) or immediately wash up.

By organising the environment around my characters to follow their ‘flow’ of the tasks, I could keep them happier and more energised.

Flow is Important

We think about this with children, and with electronic people… why don’t we consider this idea for ourselves? Across the brain-training manuals, goal-setting worksheets and my neuroscience degrees, this wasn’t a clear area mentioned to consider.

How can we harness this?

  • Firstly, consider where you want to improve your flow, what aspect of brain-training you want to alter.
  • Place similar aspects together: put your gym bag by the door so you don’t forget it, or set a reminder to review your goals when you’d already be looking at your phone.
  • Consider how you arrange your physical and digital space. Re-arrange the furniture, if necessary, and watch how your sense of flow changes.

~

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Happiness in nature: log pile
Empowerment & Seeking

Happiness: The Truth about Self-help Tools

I began studying the psychology of my own experiences in 2004 with a book on Psycholinguistics and one on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Since then, I’ve studied a bunch of qualifications, and have worked in social care, education, mental health and youth work fields.

Yet, there are some ‘lessons’ you don’t fully comprehend until you’ve lived them.

A few years ago, Christine Kane wrote an article about smiling after challenge, and a particular comment she made really stood out for me:

“That’s because when it comes right down to it, happiness is a lot about training.”

I sat and stared at that sentence. Happiness is about Training your Mind. That kind of rings true… and of course, it’s the whole point of my work, in a way. I want to share all that I know about training the mind to be healthy, happy and effective at learning, feeling and being.

Beyond all my talk about empowerment and inner strength, all my motivation for being a mentor to help people feel equipped for their personal quest: happiness is probably the most common desire in all of us.

The Personal Training Effect

Across the last 15 years or so, I’ve focused on any practise that may allow me to reach that potential, to complete my own personal quest.

I have all this knowledge about meditation, gratitude, visualisation, learning, associations, triggers, challenging our thoughts, and re-defining. But in reality, they’re all tools for experiencing happiness in the moment.

We’re all seeking happiness as someone hiring a personal trainer seeks health and wellbeing. And much like those sessions, it may take a few difficult tasks, pushing against our limits and trial and error to find the workout that gives us the desired results.

The Horizon Never Moves Closer

Similarly, goals generally require us to try various tools and methods, to fail until we learn enough to succeed.

Because really, growing in skills, ability and experience is what makes us human. Personal growth, in my view, means we’re really living.

Christine also reminds us in that article that we’re “…never going to ARRIVE at the horizon. That line where earth and sky meet will always be out in front of you.”

Which is amazing, really. In some ways, the true reach of human potential really is infinite.

It’s something I never remember, especially when I’m feeling bad and can’t explain why. It’s something I know, but can’t access the knowledge of. These little steps are the easiest, and perhaps most effective… But it’s important not to focus on the horizon, just focus on where you want to put your feet next.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Meditation as a Genuine Path to Improved Potential

I used to meditate every day.

At some point between moving in with my husband and earlier this year, the habit had just… faded.

Our ‘life’ is really a cumulation of the daily choices we make.

For me, meditation is a space for my mind to breathe. I don’t notice much when I practise, but I do notice the lack of clarity and patience when I don’t.

I’ve never done more than about 5-minutes a day, so I’m not asking myself for huge amounts of time or energy, and yet I had probably gone a few months without meditation before I really *noticed.*

The ahar moment; that sense of understanding one of the contributing factors at least, to my stress and feeling of constant overwhelm.

Small, Daily Steps Add Up

I’ve currently committed to myself three ‘meditation sessions’ a week, of at least 60-seconds.

That’s 3 minutes a WEEK.

It’s Key to Think Long Term.

If I expect myself to meditate 5-minutes daily, that’s 35-minutes a week. And if I miss two days in a row, what is the likelihood of me finishing that week off? Something stopped me from getting started twice – that block is likely to continue to exist.

So across a month, I might get those first 3 days in, then miss a day, but then complete another 2 days. By the end of the second week though, it’s dwindled to once a week as a desperate measure.

The result? I complete 45 minutes across the month, and feel stressed by the end, seeing it as a chore and only half paying-attention to the practise.

Alternatively…

I can commit to 3-minutes a week. After the first week, I think I’ll up one of those practises to 2-minutes. By the end of a fortnight, I’m completed 10 minutes. Sometimes, I do 2 sessions, because I’m beginning to feel the effects, and I don’t do anything else while the kettle boils anyway.

By the end of week 3, I’m feeling incredibly accomplished, and I’ve done 6 sessions of 2-minutes: just because it felt so easy to let the timer run-over slightly.

And then we end the month of tiny steps with around 45-minutes, but my daily mini-practise resets my stress levels regularly, doesn’t add to my never-ending to-do list, and I have a habit I can build up to 5-minutes, or even just leave it where it is. If I have a ‘bad week,’ I can still keep my commitment of three-minutes a week, even if I suddenly realise I need to do all 3-minutes last thing on a Sunday night.

The Take Home Message

If you want to be someone who does a certain behaviour, pick the smallest, tiny commitment, and make it.

Make it TODAY. Not tomorrow, not on August 1st: Now.

If it would help you to be accountable, leave a comment here, or pop over to the facebook group and update us each weekend with your progress!

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

How To Map Out Small, Daily Steps To Successful Change

We dream of things being different, and it’s frustrating to feel so far away from that possible future. When our daily steps don’t match our values. Anything which blocks our sense of progress towards our best self, feels stressful and overwhelming. Be that a known obstacle to a goal, or not knowing how exactly to reach a life where we are more fulfilled.

We all have changes we want to make, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of ways to set ‘smart’ goals, choose focus ‘words’, organise our time or work on visualisation to walk the path towards that potential.

Before we start thinking about changes, let’s spend a few moments thinking about how we define our situation.

What Changes To Make?

So often, when asked about goal-setting or making changes to how we feel, think, or behave, we focus on an end-result, an accomplishment of some description. We think about ‘reaching the end,’ and often this image has a sense of being effortless.

However, thinking about how we define our current state, we’re likely thinking about the last few days or weeks. What we did each day, how much energy we lacked, or how many things we didn’t get done.

We judge our present based on the day-to-day experience. What steps did you take today, towards that final goal?

What we want isn’t always some ‘outcome’ but actually for our days in the future to just feel lighter; for the experience of living to be that bit better.

So in reality, to make changes to that daily feeling, we need to look at our day’s current structure.

A Daily Steps Check-list

  1. Did anything today give you a sense of progress towards your best self? List any actions or events which brought you to life, got your passions going or at least brought about relief at being accomplished. Even those tiny daily steps count.
  2. What zapped your energy today? Think about the activities you did or the thoughts you focused on which left you feeling drained, panicked or overwhelmed. List them out separately, and if there are any you can remove: do so! You may need to think about if you could do them less often, or if you could swap these tasks with another person. We’ll come back to this list later.
  3. Focus on values. What sense would you like in future days? Would you choose a sense of motivation, perhaps more energy to complete tasks or just feeling free to breathe in between various tasks? Think about the values of the activities you listed for question 1, and see if any themes come up.
  4. Think about pace. Although some things may be out of our control, when trying to fit everything in, we can sometimes make decisions that squeeze us for time, or that we know aren’t going to serve us well one those days. Think about the pace of each day when making plans, especially if you’re able to ‘tone down’ some activities. For example, coffee with a friend may take too much time with travel, but when you decline, offer a 30-minute phone call to catch up as an alternative plan.
  5. Shape your future days. How would the day look, if you had more energy, more freedom or were making regular progress? Schedule an ‘ideal’ day like a diary, and notice if any of those aspects could sneak their way into your current days. For example, if an ideal day begins with 15 minutes of meditation, can you put a 1-minute mindfulness practice into place tomorrow morning?

In order to change our future, we need to look at how we live each day.

In part two, we’ll focus on incorporating small, achievable routines to bring about grand change.

*~*

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